Tragedy sans God

Prior to last week I had never been to a funeral for a friend.

I’ve been to funerals of course;  when the parents of one of my friends died and they needed my support, or when an inlaw died in support of my wife.  This was the first time since I was probably 8 years old that someone that I called a friend, or someone I cared about directly died.

It feels different, emptier, and it makes me think about the brevity of my own life.

I’ve been mulling this over a great deal since it happened.

Then, today – December 14, 2012 – something like 20 elementary school kids get killed in a school shooting in Connecticut.

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Live Debate: Matt Oxley vs. Chris Bolt – Does the Triune God of the Scriptures Exist

Join us today for a live debate covering the topic:

Does the Triune God of the Scriptures Exist?

The debate will begin at 10AM and last roughly 1.5 hours.  It will be livestreamed from a Google+ hangout and you can watch it below, or directly at the YouTube page here.

 

The format will be as follows:

Moderator: Ben Woodring

Affirmative – Chris Bolt
Negative – Matt Oxley
Chris Bolt Opening 15 min
Matt Oxley Opening 15 min
Cross Ex Matt Oxley (Questioning) 7 min
Cross Ex Chris Bolt (Questioning) 7 min
Matt Oxley Rebuttal 10 min
Chris Bolt Rebuttal 10 min
Matt Oxley Closing 8 min
Chris Bolt Closing 8 min

 

J’s Transition: From Brownsville Revival to Atheist

This is the second edition of “Your Stories” – a bi-weekly feature here on RagingRev.com from my readers featuring your own stories of doubt and leaving the faith. Today you’ll find a reader who wishes to remain anonymous (we’ll call him J), but who I have known for probably 10 years now and how he was converted to Christianity as a young teen at the Brownsville Revival and then was later plagued with doubts and questions.

J and I have known one another as both Christians, and now as unbelievers. We explored many of the questions we had about our faith together along with a few other friends (whom will be sending in their own stories later) together and we’ve seen the transition from men of faith to men of doubt happen.

J’s story is very similar to my own, I remember wishing that I could go down to Brownsville to be  a part of the great Revival happening there. I remember being told by my mentor in the faith that I could be the reason the next great awakening occurred. I wanted it badly enough that I could taste it.

* * *

My childhood was quite chaotic. I moved a lot, living between my parents and my various grandparents. Things were always a bit uncertain but one thing was consistent and that was church. When living with my grandparents I would always go to church, sometimes up to three services a week. I attended Assembly of God churches, Lutheran churches, and everything in between. Pretty much every denomination besides Catholicism. Christianity was engrained in me from a very early age and was the only lens I had to view the world through. During my early childhood I accepted God at face value. As I continued to grow into my teen years I lived with my parents. We would go to church off and on, always during key holidays or visits to my grandparents. My parents were more the “we believe in God” but weren’t overly religious types. Over the years church became a chore, something I found boring. Once I was a teenager I pretty much hated the thought of going to church. My mother had remarried at this point and I was a rather stubborn teen. I hated everyone and everything. I barely got along with any of my family and would constantly fight. Around this time though my father’s side of the family became very religious, much more so than usual. Though this wasn’t your typical “churchy” kind of obsession.

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Letting Go – Sarah’s Story

I’ve decided to start doing a regular segment on RagingRev.com from readers who want to tell their own story about how they came out of their faiths. If you, as a reader, would like to submit your story please use the Contact Me link at the top of the page. This segment will be called Your Stories.

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“What do you do when you are having doubts about God? “ I asked.

“You pray about it.” She replied.

This is the short conversation that took place in my 11th grade Sunday school classroom. I had attended the First Baptist Church in my hometown for as long as I could remember. I was there every Sunday, every Wednesday evening and for most any other church sponsored event every week. When I was eight years old, I made my way up the aisle to tell the preacher that I wanted to accept Jesus into my heart and I was baptized the following week. I never really felt like God was speaking to me the way other people described hearing him speak to them. I only decided to speak to the preacher because I felt obligated to. It seemed like everyone expected it, especially considering that everyone was so happy and proud of my little brother for doing it the week before.

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The Role of the Ex-Christian in the Church

Despite my moniker to the contrary I actually try to be the voice of calm reason when I talk to believers; and trust me when I say it, I talk to a lot of believers. Many of these conversations happen with what one might call “infant Christians” or new converts to the Christian faith – I find myself drawn to them because I know that they’ve likely just experienced an incredible emotional high that led to their “salvation” and I want to try to guide them into a faith that is more than just a culmination of feelings that occurred one Sunday morning at church. I’m an Ex-christian now, an atheist even.

When I was a Christian in my early and mid teens I had a mentor that felt it was important to train me up in the doctrines of my faith. He put me under a rigorous method of study, gave me books to read, and introduced me to collegiate level concepts when I was still a teenager. Despite the many flaws of this man he did one thing that so many are failing to do in the church today: he ensured that I knew how to study and think. He knew that this study would generate a thirst for more knowledge in me, and he was absolutely right – it did. Without this mentor in my life I doubt I could have ever studied to the point at which I was able to question the concept of god, much less the basic tenets of my faith. Why is that? and why is this seemingly missing from so many churches today?

I don’t believe an individual can truly question the fundamentals of any concept without having a working grasp of that concept.

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An Aversion to Labels

I frequently encourage people to define themselves – to state who they are with some sort of adjective that describes their position on any given subject; atheist, theist, Christian, Muslim, Humanist, pro-life, pro-choice, straight, gay, liberal, conservative, ad nauseum. We call these adjectives labels.

For reasons that I’m not fully sure I understand many people seem very resistant to being labeled. Perhaps the aversion to labels comes from holding negative associations with others that share a certain label with the objector (which is understandable sometimes) , or perhaps it’s the desire to be free to change one’s position without being accused of flippancy. I remember doing all that I could to remove myself from the label of Christian during the death throes of my time as a believer, and so I told people not to even call me a Christian anymore as it was just too embarrassing a term. I couldn’t handle being associated with the homophobic, racist, ignoramus that were most easily visible and most widely associated with the word – and so I asked to have the label removed, the fact remained that I still believed in the resurrection of Jesus Christ – so I was still a Christian, label or no label.
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Finding common ground with an evangelist street preacher

What’s a street preacher doing here?

This last Saturday I was doing some audio work at the local Pondtown Festival;  a little arts, crafts, and music festival in the tiny city of Rhine, GA about 20 minutes from where I live.  As I was sitting behind the sound booth I noticed a sign off in the distance amongst the crowds of people that were about a block down the road that said something about Jesus and Hell.  Immediately I knew exactly who it was though I couldn’t quite read his sign yet. This was a street preacher.

His name is Derek, and he is a street preacher that spends most of his time in the Philippines as a pastor and evangelist. Derek is from the same town that I’m from and he visits here every so often to see his family and speak at many of the local churches. On his current visit he’s been going around to various events performing street evangelism with a number of the youth from area churches.

After I noticed this sign in the distance I knew I had to take a few minutes to go talk to him – Derek and I know one another and I heard him speak a time or two back when I was still a believer so talking to him isn’t such a big deal. So, I walk up to him and ready the camera on my phone – he notices me and kind of gives me a smile and a laugh as I snap a picture.

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Praxis Presup Debate ft. Matt Oxley and Brian Knapp

I was recently challenged to a debate with Christian Pressuppositional Reformed Apologist Brian Knapp. The debate took place on November 13 through Skype and was really fun and enlightening.  I thank Brian and Chris Bolt for having me and for providing the audio recording for the debate.

Brian Knapp writes for ChoosingHats.com

If you prefer to download and listen later or on your MP3 Player you can download it Here.

(total run time is about 1 hour and 47 minutes)

 

I’ll have a commentary on the debate shortly, in the mean time please feel free to provide critique of my positions (or Brian’s) in the comments below.

Wasted Potential: Church Buildings and Charity

Over the last two months or so I’ve been attending a weekly Bible study with a group of men at my local coffee shop (Yes, they all know I’m an atheist) and one of the recurring themes we’ve been going over in our study is the purpose, structure, and call of the Christian Church as established and described in the New Testament Epistles.  Last week I mentioned to the group that it was worth noting that when Paul wrote an Epistle to a group of believers he wrote it to “THE Church at (Thessalonica, Phillipi, Collosae, etc)” as opposed to “The Second Baptist Church on 4th Avenue”.  I think this not only highlights a problem with the modern church when compared to the Church of the Bible – but also a slap in the face to the ideas of charity and caring for widows and orphans (James 1:17).

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(Another) Former Atheist Embraces Faith

The world of Christian news has been buzzing lately with news that Rich Suplita, Professor of Psychology for University of Georgia and former sponsor for the campus’ atheist club UGAtheists, has renounced atheism and embraced the Christian faith.

Suplita isn’t the first atheist turned Christian to be used as fodder by the evangelical camp; Anthony Flew, Lee Strobel, and others are all well known as “former atheists” that saw the “light” – nor will he be the last. These types of conversions excite the evangelical community around me, they think that seeing a man like me return to faith for whatever reason will eventually break whatever barrier they believe prevents me from being a believer. I pay attention to why people believe though, and Rich’s stated reasons fall short of reasonable.

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